Originally posted on Saturday, 03 May 2014 at ROPL.org.
By Lauren Oliver
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Review by Sarah Nagelbush, Adult Librarian
Lauren Oliver’s newest novel is a return, in a way, to her realistic fiction beginnings. Instead of the dystopian world of Delirium, her most recent book is about a world not to different from our own. Panic is the story of Heather. But it’s really the story of a game, which shares the same title as the novel. Panic the game is all about dares. It’s a contest and the winner gets money. Except, in Heather’s case, everyone has different motives.
Heather’s friend Nat plays the game for the money, so she can finally escape town. Heather’s best friend, Bishop, doesn’t play the game at all. Their newest friend, Dodge, plays the game for revenge. And Heather? She doesn’t know why she’s agreed to play Panic. But the story isn’t really about the game, although it’s the basis for everything that happens in the story.
Instead, the story is about living in a small town. It’s about relationships, friendships and trust. Trust of your friends, your family and the people around you. Panic, the game, isn’t about trust – or it’s not supposed to be. Heather thinks she knows what’s going on, but it turns out she doesn’t know herself anymore than she knows her friends.
Panic is not a great novel, I’m not even sure I liked it. But it was compelling. I had to finish, because I had to know what happens. I found myself liking and disliking characters throughout the whole novel. Oliver knows how to play with your feelings (as in the Delirium series and Before I Fall) and a good turn of phrase. My one complaint, though, is that actions don’t always have the consequences I would agree on. But in a world where Panic exists, that makes more sense.
Recommended if you’re looking for something thrilling, but slightly disturbing.